Tree of Life by Margaret Light

15th October 2021

Selecting a cover image for a book or a magazine isn’t an arbitrary decision. Sometimes the image is selected because it exemplifies all of the contents to follow, and other times it is selected to whet the appetite of the reader and encourage them to look inside.

And then there are times when the image is selected because it’s simply so spectacular, it was destined all along to become an iconic cover. Margaret Light’s Tree of Life, which adorns the cover of her book A Fine Tradition, falls squarely into this last category.

The theme of the Tree of Life is one that has appeared in embroidery for centuries. When it comes to crewel embroidery, the subject is much favoured with various Tree of Life designs appearing throughout the centuries.

Most of them feature out of proportion foliage and fauna, a mismatch of leaves and flowers all growing from a central trunk, and a wide variety of stitches.

But Margaret’s Tree of Life really is something special. She was inspired, just as earlier crewel embroiderers were, by Chinese silk coverlets and Indian palampores. This influence can be identified in the unusual shapes she’s employed in the leaves and flowers of this intricate tree. 

Furthermore, whereas many traditional Jacobean designs have the tree growing from gentle rounded hillocks, Margaret’s hills are more jagged and rocky and much closer to the original Chinese designs than their later emulators.

The colour palette she’s chosen, although bold and bright, perfectly encapsulates the kind of colours that would have featured in original crewel pieces from centuries ago. It is set off by petals and leaves in bright red and rich, electric blue, with the majority of the piece being worked in subtle shades of green and brown and splashes of white.

But it is the dizzying array of stitches in this piece that makes it so spectacular. Every element seems to use a new and different combination of stitches resulting in a huge number of different textures and effects.

The rocky hillocks alone offer the embroiderer the opportunity to ply their skills in trellis, vermicelli couching and burden stitch, while each leaf and flower bursts with stitched details.

Hidden among the foliage you’ll find a range of animals, from a cheeky monkey to a tiny rabbit. These thoughtful additions bring even more life to this piece, making it as enjoyable to visually explore as it is to stitch.

Tree of Life is a reasonably large project requiring a generous allocation of time and a good stitch guide to hand. Because each motif is so unique, it is best to regard each as a mini-project inside the larger project. This allows you to focus on each one, master the required stitches and complete it before moving on to the next.

There are plenty of stitching hours to enjoy in Margaret’s Tree of Life and we can guarantee it will bring nothing but joy from the first stitch to the last.

Tree of Life can then be mounted in a frame, as a wall-hanging or in whichever way you please, as however you chose to display it, it is truly a work of art for everyone to admire. With the detail, the colour and the variety of stitches, you’ll find a new delight to enjoy every time you pass it by. If ever there was a project which can be described as magnificent, this one is it.

Make Your Own Tree of Life

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Tree of Life by Margaret Light from the book A Fine Tradition is a sumptuous crewel wall hanging masterfully combining colour and stitch.

Printed Books

A Fine Tradition

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kit for Tree of Life includes everything* you need to re-create this stunning hanging: Fabric (unprinted), embroidery threads and needles.


Tree of Life – AFT Kit

*Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the book.

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